Payson Advised To Drop Grant Bid For Main St.

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Sometimes you just have to backup several steps to go forward in the future.

That could apply to Payson’s long-suffering attempt to actually spend a grant to make a short stretch of Main Street pedestrian friendly.

The latest twist in the convoluted tale of a $300,000 grant to install landscaping, benches, parking and other improvements along a core stretch of Main Street near McLane Road will unfold at Thursday night’s council meeting.

The town nearly a year ago landed the mostly state and federal gas-tax funded grant, but balked at actually undertaking construction when the town’s financial crisis left it without needed matching funds.

The council asked the town staff to try to convince the group that oversees the grant to let the town extend the awarded grant for three years, in hopes that an economic turnaround would produce the $17,000 to $80,000 the town would need to pay its share.

The Arizona Department of Transportation officials that run that grant committee spent months sending mixed signals, prompting the town to ask for an extension.

However, the committee of local officials actually in charge has now rejected the town’s request for an extension and advised the town to either move forward or give up the grant.

Payson Public Works Manager LaRon Garrett on Thursday will urge the town to drop its claim on the already-awarded grant, in hopes the committee will give the town priority in a year or two when the economy recovers.

Bill Leister, Payson’s representative on the Transportation Enhancement Review Commit-tee (TERC), in an Oct. 22 memo also advised the town to withdraw its already approved grant.

Leister said the committee would probably give the town priority in the future if Payson released its claim on the money now. Moreover, the program to fund such local street improvements would likely increase grant ceilings from $500,000 to $750,000 in the future, while very likely requiring towns and cities to pay a lower percentage of the total cost.

Currently, grants won’t pay for things like drawing up plans and moving utility lines, which could have boosted the town’s share of the project to somewhere between $17,000 and $80,000. As a result, the town might both get more state money and spend less local money by canceling the grant and reapplying in a year or two, said Garrett in a memo to the town council.

However, people hoping the town would attempt to upgrade and focus development on the Main Street historic and commercial district had pushed hard in recent months to keep the project from dropping into the limbo of future intentions — saying the improvements could lay the groundwork for the long-hoped-for transformation of the street into a place where locals and residents could stroll, shop and eat.

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